31 January 2024
GPRA delivers innovative Federal Budget submission to help attract more doctors to GP training
General Practice Registrars Australia (GPRA), the independent peak body and voice for future General Practitioners (GPs), has unveiled its pioneering 2024-2025 Federal Budget submission aimed at helping communities across Australia get access to more GPs.
GPRA’s solution for its 20,000 members is to establish an independent national GP Training Leave Support Fund to solve, once and for all, one of the key barriers to doctors applying to GP training – limited or no access to parental, study or exam leave.
The fund forms the major part of GPRA’s submission ahead of the 2024-2025 Federal Budget, which will be handed down in May.
“Hospital-based doctors see that general practice speciality training is undervalued and underfunded so, increasingly, they are choosing to work in other specialties,” said GPRA President Dr Karyn Matterson.
“A profession which recognises work-family balance and remunerates their trainees appropriately to study will attract more doctors.”
The proposed Fund would operate similarly to other industry endowment type self-sustaining funds administered and regulated by bodies such as the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) – for example Police Legacy Funds – where donors contribute to a pool for eligible members to apply for and access.
It is proposed that the proposed GP Training Leave Support Fund outlined in the Budget Submission will offer up to:
- 15 days (three weeks’ salary) to enable GP registrars to access Study and Exam Leave throughout their GP Speciality training
- two different types of Parental Leave benefits:
- Benefit arrangements A: A GP trainee could apply for up to eight weeks paid leave at 100 per cent of base rate salary after the first 12 months of training
- Benefit arrangements B: A GP trainee could apply for eight weeks paid leave at 75 per cent of base salary after the first 12 months of training, or a GP trainee whose partner has had a baby could access up to two weeks paid leave at 75 per cent of base salary after the first 12 months of training.
“General practice is at a crossroad. There has never been a more critical time for the Federal Government to step forward and directly help address a major system barrier for GP training,” said Dr Matterson.
“This fund would have independent oversight, would set and monitor the eligibility terms, would be responsible for growing the fund, and would not rely solely on the Government ‘footing the entire cost’, but rather playing a key contributing role.
“GPRA commissioned actuaries to do the maths on what it would cost to set up a Fund for GP registrars.
“Through rigorous independent research, member input, and reputable sector data, we’ve found a different and new solution which places no administrative or extra cost burden on GP practices, registrars, or the Federal Government.
“The Fund also invites private investors to be part of helping communities to continue to have GPs to access, and to support an emerging GP during their training years.”
NSW-based GP Registrar Dr Chris Dickie, who is about to sit his RACGP exams, said: “This is a vital issue we need to get sorted.
“I have taken a week off before my Fellowship exams – unpaid – and in the current cost of living context, a loss of a week’s wages just to prepare for my exam has made things on the homefront just that little bit harder.
“My colleagues sitting hospital-based specialty exams have been astonished that we currently get no support of this type, and clearly this could be a barrier to recruiting GPs. I wish a solution was available now.”
The Fund would see GP registrars apply for paid parental leave and study and exam leave payments, with fund administrators managing the application process and decision-making.
“While GPRA is requesting funding to set up and establish an independent fund, we would not be the administrator of the Fund nor derive any profits from the Fund going forward,” said Dr Matterson.
“It will afford registrars a streamlined administrative process to apply for parental, study and exam financial support – regardless of their location of training and pathway.
“Seeing the establishment of such a Fund would be our legacy to our members for the benefit of all communities.”
To attract donors to the Fund from its inaugural start, GPRA is requesting the Government commit to total funding of $42 million over 10 years, with $17 million towards the Fund’s establishment and inaugural pool of funds by 2025–2026, as well as annual contributions for the following nine years to 2036.
“This investment would help kickstart a fund that can, and will attract other philanthropic /corporate investors who want to contribute to improving access and equity across Australia’s primary healthcare system and be part of investing so future doctors can become GPs,” said Dr Matterson.
“It is also a step towards realising true public/private donor arrangements in our sector, with many wanting to contribute to ensure communities have access to future GPs.”
GPRA’s submission also includes a $2 million investment for the establishment of the Future GP Peer Initiative to promote positive connection of medical students with the GP profession from their early years of medical training.
This initiative consists of two key elements:
- Peer hubs – Establishment and coordination of up to three peer hubs (mix of rural, peri urban and urban), which may over time become platforms for Centres for General Practice Excellence
- Podcast – The production of a new peer-led Future GP podcast to bolster GP sector promotion to the next generation of future GPs.
“To attract more doctors to the GP speciality, change supported by investment needs to happen across the entire student to fellow pipeline journey,” said Dr Matterson.
“GPRA believes the initiatives in this submission can and will increase the number of graduates choosing general practice as a speciality.”
General Practice Registrars Australia (GPRA) is the independent voice for future GPs in Australia (www.gpra.org.au)
A survey by the Medical Deans of Australia and New Zealand confirmed that less than 15 per cent of medical graduates are choosing general practice as their preferred career.
GPRA’s 2022 NTCER benchmarking survey of its members also revealed:
- Four out of 10 registrars have made a change to another speciality training career or family planning due to the lack of parental leave
- Only 54 per cent of registrars are satisfied with their access to leave
- Other than base pay, access to study leave and parental leave are the two highest priorities for registrars in employment reform.